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12 Common Wear & Tear Items on Motorcycles

12 Common Wear & Tear Items on Motorcycles

Riding a motorcycle is not solely about adventure and fun. To ensure your safety  and the safety of other riders, it is essential that you remain at the top of your motorcycle’s condition. Motorcycles have a comprehensive maintenance schedule that all riders must follow to ensure a safe ride. Contrary to popular belief, motorcycle maintenance is not that challenging. Anyone can keep track of the maintenance tasks that need to be done upon completing certain miles by consulting the owner’s manual and using the maintenance checklists provided within. In addition, motorcycle maintenance apps have made tracking your bike’s maintenance tasks extremely easy. Typically, there are two levels of motorcycle maintenance: daily checks and periodic checks.

The majority of daily checks involve inspecting common wear and tear items on your motorcycle before each ride. Many riders perform these safety checks on their own after consulting the dealership and manual. But to perform these tasks correctly, one must know which parts are likely to get damaged quickly and require replacements. In this article, VikingBags has compiled a list of 12 motorcycle parts that are damage-prone and require riders to keep an eye on them.

1. Brake Pads

Brake pads  are an important component in your motorcycle’s braking setup. Brake pads apply pressure on the rotor that is connected to the wheel. The applied pressure creates friction that slows down and eventually stops the motorcycle. Hence, brake pads are crucial for road safety. Brake pads wear out due to friction created to stop the motorcycle. If your motorcycle is making squealing sounds or shows delayed stopping power, it is an indication of damaged brake pads. Riders can increase the life of brake pads by adopting a better riding style or investing in high-quality sintered brake pads. However, it is still necessary to inspect brake pads on a regular basis and replace them as required to avoid accidents.

2. Tires

Tires act as the foundation of your two-wheeler and they are responsible for many tasks, including:

  • Transmission of braking and acceleration forces to the ground
  • Supporting the weight of the vehicle, rider, and luggage
  • Absorbing shocks and bumps from irregular roads
  • Maintain and change vehicle’s direction
  • Provide traction, stability,  and control

As tires make direct contact with the ground, they wear out quicker. Since tires are responsible for multiple tasks, it is important to inspect them regularly for cracks, punctures, bulges, tread depth, inflation, and irregularities. Tires wear out because of various reasons, including harsh braking, poor road maintenance, and improper wheel alignment. It is also worth knowing that rear tires wear out faster than front tires as the engine power is transmitted to the rear tire, making it  responsible for acceleration and deceleration. In addition, all the weight of the passenger and the luggage is usually supported by the rear tire. Hence, it is more susceptible to wear than the front tire. On average, motorcycle tires can easily last over 10,000 miles. However, if you travel long-distances, explore different terrain, and ride your bike on gravel or dirt trails, then you would have to replace them sooner. It mostly depends on your riding style, riding conditions, and frequency of rides.

3. Chain Drive and Sprocket

Chain drive and sprockets work together to ensure smooth power delivery from the engine to the rear wheel. During the process, chain drive and sprocket endure strong forces and get worn out over time. In addition, high tension levels in the chain drive can also lead to premature wear, reduced performance and fuel efficiency, and eventually complete failure. By adjusting the tension in the chain drive regularly, riders can increase the life and performance of chain drive and sprockets. But once the chain and sprockets show signs of damage, it is best to replace them without delay.

4. Battery

With proper maintenance and care, motorcycle batteries last up to five years. But quite often, batteries die sooner than that. The addition of electric gadgets and custom accessories, such as high beam lights, heated grips, and advanced audio systems can drain motorcycle batteries sooner. Moreover, exposure to cold temperatures and lack of proper cleaning can also reduce battery life. A dying battery is unable to provide adequate electric supply required to power the engine and other electrical components. A visual inspection will help you determine whether a battery replacement is required. The most obvious signs include broken terminals, bulge in the battery casing, corroded terminals, and fluid leaks. If you see any of these signs, consider replacing the battery.

5. Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are an important part of your motorcycle’s ignition system. When voltage reaches the plug, it creates a spark that ignites air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber to start the motorcycle engine. Hence, if the motorcycle spark plugs are not working, the engine will not start. Spark plugs may fail prematurely due to overheating caused by malfunctioning cooling systems. In addition, driving long-distances at a slow speed, idling a motorcycle for too long, dirty air filter, and incorrect ratio of air/fuel mixture can also cause spark plug failure. The most common signs of a failing spark plug include trouble starting the engine, lack of acceleration, reduced fuel economy, engine misfiring, engine knocking, reduced engine performance, and rough idling. If you experience any of these signs when riding your bike, replace the spark plugs the earliest possible.

6. Filters (Air, Fuel & Oil)

It is recommended to replace the motorcycle air filter after every 10,000 miles or annually no matter the motorcycle brand. Furthermore, oil filter should be replaced after every 6,000 miles, and the fuel filter should be replaced after every 10,000-12,000 miles.

The motorcycle air filter prevents debris and dust from entering the engine. It allows only clean air to pass through, ensuring combustion efficiency and smooth power delivery.

The motorcycle fuel filter ensures the fuel entering the engine is free from impurities. To crank properly, a motorcycle engine requires a particular ratio of clean air/fuel mixture. Both air and fuel filters work in tandem to fulfill this basic requirement.  

On the other hand, the oil filter removes impurities, debris, and dust from engine oil before it enters the reservoir. To prevent contamination, frequent oil changes should be performed, preferably after every 5,000 miles.

Over time, all three filters get clogged by the impurities they were filtering out. While cleaning the air filters is an option, replacing the paper air filters is the best option. The fuel filters made of metal can be reused; however, if they are heavily soiled, it is best to replace them. The motorcycle oil filters cannot be reused and must be replaced.

Re-using a clogged air filter can cause power loss, reduced fuel economy, and poor throttle response. At times, clogged air filters are the reason a motorcycle’s engine won’t start. Moreover, poor mileage, reduced engine outputs, and rough idling are signs of a bad fuel filter. The signs of a bad oil filter include black smoke coming out of the exhaust, decreased engine oil quality, engine overheating, harsh engine vibration, and poor mileage.

7. Clutch Cable

The clutch cable is important for smooth and timely gear shifts on a motorcycle. A worn-out or broken clutch cable will make it difficult or impossible to ride your bike. A quality clutch cable lasts at least two years. But if you feel that gear shifts are not smooth or the clutch lever is too stiff, it is a clear sign your clutch cable is worn out and your motorcycle is in need of a replacement. The motorcycle clutch cable can wear out prematurely because of riding frequency, aggressive riding style, and prolonged use.

8. Fork Seals

Motorcycle fork seals are a small ring present on the bottom of the front fork tube. The primary function of a fork seal is to keep the fork oil inside the tubing. Without fork seals, fork oil leaks out and falls on the brake rotors. This can reduce your bike’s stopping power significantly. Hence, worn-out fork seals can lead to dangerous situations. The common signs of a worn-out fork seal include oil build-up around the seal, oil stains on the fork tube, reduced front tire grip, and instability. You can also detect early signs of wear by wiping a clean white cloth on the fork seals. If you find oil stains on the cloth then repair or replace the fork seals immediately.

9. Other Suspension Components

The suspension system of a motorcycle is responsible for riding comfort, absorption of road irregularities, control, and stability when cornering. The suspension system also helps maximize a motorcycle’s performance on rough terrain. Shocks from rough and uneven roads wear out linkage bearings and shock absorbers. As the shock absorbers get damaged, they are unable to absorb the irregularities in the road. Hence, if the ride feels unusually bouncy, rough, or uncomfortable, then it is an indication of failing suspension components that need to be repaired or replaced.

10. Steering Head Bearings

Steering head bearings may get damaged due to dust accumulation and corrosion. Performing wheelies on a motorcycle can wear out steering head bearings. Some common signs of damaged steering head bearings include poor steering, excess play in the handlebars, harsh vibration at the front, difficulty turning corners, difficulty riding in a straight line, and unusual noises. Damaged steering head bearings can cause handling issues and may lead to fatal accidents.

11. Light Bulbs

Motorcycle bulbs are important for visibility and road safety. Though bulbs may last up to 1000 hours, they are considered common wear and tear items on a motorcycle. Riders who travel long-distances and enjoy riding at night may need to replace motorcycle lights more frequently than those who use motorcycles for commuting. There are different kinds of motorcycle lights available, including halogen lights, LED lights, xenon lights, low beam lights, high beam lights, and signal lights. Each type of light has its own lifespan, but the signs of wear are similar in most. These include dimming, eventual burnout, broken wires, flickering lights, and slow response. Most of the lighting issues are related to battery failure and damaged wiring. Hence, it is recommended that you inspect battery, wiring, and lighting on a daily basis to ensure optimal visibility and safety.

12. Exhaust Manifold Gaskets

Motorcycle exhaust gaskets prevent exhaust gasses from leaking out into the atmosphere before they are properly converted into less harmful gasses. The leaks can occur in the muffler, exhaust pipes or exhaust manifold. A leaky exhaust manifold reduces heat dissipation from the engine. As a result, it  damages the valves that channel exhaust gasses away from the engine. The major sign of a worn out exhaust manifold gasket is the hissing sound coming from the engine during acceleration or a cold start. Majority of the exhaust leaks occur due to loose bolts or blown gaskets. 

13. Maintenance Tips to Prevent Frequent Replacements

Repairing damaged parts and frequent replacements are a part of motorcycling. As mentioned, some motorcycle parts are more susceptible to wear and tear than others. While replacements become necessary at some point, here are some essential maintenance tips that can help increase the lifespan of the damage-prone items of your motorcycle. In addition, performing these maintenance tasks regularly will also ensure a smooth and safe riding experience.

Check Your Tires

Check tire pressure daily, especially in winter. This is because in cold weather, tire pressure tends to drop. For every 10-degree drop in the temperature, tire pressure decreases by two psi. It is best to keep a pressure gauge in your garage so you can perform this maintenance task yourself just before you take your bike for a ride. If you take your motorcycle at a repair shop for tire pressure checks, make sure you visit the same shop to ensure consistency and accurate readings. If the tire pressure is lower than normal, it can adversely affect stability and handling. It can also affect your bike’s stopping power, leading to accidents. On the other hand, tire pressure higher than normal can make the tire extremely rigid, leading to holes, blowouts, punctures, and accidents. High pressure also causes uneven tire wear, reducing traction and the life of tires. If you want your motorcycle tires to last longer, ensure the tire pressure is within normal range.

In addition, check for tread depth. If the tire tread depth is low, it can cause delayed braking and loss of traction, which then lead to accidents.

Maintain the Motorcycle Battery

Whether you use your motorcycle for work commutes or long-distance rides, reliability is important. Maintaining your motorcycle’s battery is an essential tip to increase your bike’s reliability. To ensure that the battery is in top condition, check battery fluid levels at least once a month. The battery fluid should be within the maximum and minimum lines for each cell. If the battery fluid is low, make sure you seek professional help to replenish the fluids. If you perform the task yourself, consult the owner’s manual and perform the task according to instructions provided within. The battery fluid is corrosive and can cause skin burn. Make sure you wear a protective face mask and gloves to avoid contact. If your motorcycle is not in use during the winter, make sure that the battery is stored at room temperature. Also, charge your battery after checking the voltage. The reading of a fully-charged motorcycle is usually over 12.6 V. If your battery is draining faster, then consider replacing it.

Inspect Brake Pads

Well-maintained brake pads are essential to ensure the reliable braking performance of your motorcycle. Brake pads are highly prone to wear and tear because they absorb large amounts of heat and energy. Worn-out brake pads are unable to produce the friction required to stop the motorcycle and also cause damage to brake discs and rotors. Check brake pads regularly and if they are thinner than 1.5 mm, replace them without delay. To increase the lifespan of brake pads, it is recommended that you avoid unnecessary braking and aggressive riding habits. Try not to carry luggage weighing more than the bike’s weight capacity.

Keep Moving Parts Lubricated

Lubricating the moving motorcycle components timely keeps them in good condition, ensures longevity, and reduces the need for frequent replacements. For example a rusty, dry chain drive will wear out quicker than a well-lubricated chain. After riding in wet conditions, make sure you clean your bike, remove the old grease, and apply a fresh coat of lubricant to prevent rusting and dirt accumulation. It is best to lubricate the chain drive every 500-600 miles, but you can refer to the motorcycle manual for accurate intervals.  Other components that wear quickly without lubrication include, clutch cables, brake lever, and throttle cables.

Clean the Air Filter

Air filter is normally replaced every 10,000-15,000 miles. However, air filters must be cleaned every 2,000 miles to ensure that your motorcycle’s engine does not get clogged with dirt, grime, and debris. Clogged air filters reduce air supply to the engine, resulting in combustion inefficiency, soot formation, lower engine outputs, and accumulation of soot on spark plugs. Make sure you check maintenance intervals in your owner's manual for proper air filter maintenance.

Wash Your Bike Regularly

To prevent dust accumulation and potential rusting of metal parts, wash your bike regularly, especially if you ride in wet and snowy conditions or near the ocean. The salt on the roads and air coats the metal parts and speeds up rusting if left to sit on the motorcycle. Use warm soapy water to gently but effectively clean your motorcycle and prevent premature wear and tear. Avoid using high-pressure water systems or jet-washers to wash the bike. They can damage the rubber seals and also flatten the fins of the radiators.

14. Last Words

Riding a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience but to fully enjoy motorcycling, one must ensure that the bike is well-maintained. Staying at the top of your motorcycle’s maintenance will not only optimize its performance but will increase the lifespan of parts prone to premature damage or failure. Make sure you perform all the necessary maintenance tasks and pay special attention to the items listed above.

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